Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
The compilation of Leonie Forbes' story began over a decade ago. She recalled that "in the beginning, it was not a case of writing down my story in any set way. It was a matter of telling my story to Professor Morris".
At times, months would go by and nothing was written, but on Sunday, fittingly, at the Little Theatre, her friends, former colleagues in media and theatre, along with the press were on hand to share in the watershed moment with the launch of Leonie: Her Autobiography, Leonie Forbes as Told to Mervyn Morris.
Speaking with The Gleaner after the formalities of the launch and between the signing of autographs, Jamaica's premier actress explained that she was proud of writing down her story. She hopes that her book becomes "an encouragement for others to write their own story".
"Maybe someone else will say that nothing is impossible, no matter how we start, and so on, and how we carry on, and the people that we meet and the opportunities that they present," said Forbes.
On the question of regretting or changing any parts of her book, Leonie Forbes gave a strong no saying, "There is no part that I would change."
Earlier, the launch began with the playing of Jamaica's National Anthem. This was followed by greetings, performances in dance, music, a video presentation, poetry, and the reading of excerpts from the book.
Among those who gave greetings were Member of Parliament Mike Henry in his role as chairman of LMH Publishing Ltd, and Sydney Bartley, principal director of culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
In greetings loaded with quotations from Claude McKay, Marcus Garvey, Louise Bennett, and French writer Franz Fanon, the director of culture said:
"The name of Leonie Forbes will continue in the annals of Jamaica's history for now and for many years to come because Leonie Forbes would have established herself as a matriarch of Jamaica's culture. Leonie, we cherish your involvement. We respect your craft, and we salute your work and your substance, and we are endeared to you because within everything that we have become, we owe you a debt of gratitude."
Henry, showing that he can do away with his political hat for the matter at hand, was very brief. He said that Forbes inspires us and that the book was the second of 15 to be published this year.
Tony Patel was the first of the performers. Described as a former co-worker of Forbes' at the now defunct Jamaica Broadcasting Commission (JBC), Patel performed 'September'.
Carole Reid and Harold Davis, on keyboard, were fabulous with their delivery of the popular gospel song The Prayer.
Christopher Daley and Nadine Rawlins were next. They did renditions of Forbes' work, proving her sense of humour in no uncertain manner.
But it was the L'Acadco group under the direction of L'Antoinett Stines that had Forbes still talking at the end of the programme. Her favourite was 'L'Antech Meets Reggae Drum Xplosion'.
A video tribute created by Robin Baston provided snippets of various roles and a long list of productions graced by the lady of the moment.
Later, Baston explained that the video had been done years ago when Forbes was to receive a special award for excellence at an Actor Boy Awards function. It was a basket of footage showing Forbes' range from places such as the Creative Production and Training Centre and JBC.
He further shared that the driving vision behind the video was that it could be used in the training of rising actors.
Excerpts from Forbes' book were read by three established actresses: Sakina Deer, Makeda Solomon, and Ruth HoShing. They each read sections that spoke about different aspects of Forbes' life. The readings were followed by remarks from Morris and an emotional Forbes.
The launch ended with a very lively performance from the Jamaican Folk Singers. Their selections included Dis Long Time Gal and Mango Time.